Picture menus: sin or savvy?

1 02 2008

Many restauranteurs would probably argue that pictures on a menu are just an outright abomination to the profession (Gordon Ramsey, for one). You don’t see any upscale restaurants with pictures on their menu, just a detailed description of the dish. To be sure, pictures on menus are reminiscent of fast food joints.

I’ll take the combo #2, super-sized.” No description needed, the picture says it all.

mmphogclakm zpechtorflam” is the reply from the speaker (that means “pull up” in drive-thru speak).

Is it a sin to have pictures on a menu? Any one of us can probably recall off the top of our head at least five restaurants we’ve been to with pictures on the menu (let’s see: Chili’s, Denny’s, Red Robin…hmm, all franchises – interesting). Do these restaurants know something that other restauranteurs don’t? I would venture to say that restaurants actually sell more of the pictured items, but I haven’t seen any data on this. Let me tell you what I think. Read the rest of this entry »


Will Starbucks get its soul back?

31 01 2008

starbucksA couple of days ago an article came through on the AP wire regarding a memo issued by Starbucks Chariman Howard Schultz. This memo, delivered to Starbucks top executives about a year ago bemoaned the “watering down of the Starbucks experience. He complained that the company’s unbridled growth had sapped the soul out of the company. In this memo he pointed to the fact that many people find the stores “sterile” and “cookie cutter.”

How often do you see or hear about someone in a position such as Schulz’s being so candid about the company they run? Admitting there is a problem is the first step towards recovery, and Schultz hit the problem right on the head. As Starbucks saturates the market, the funky and cozy coffee houses (remember when they were called that?) have gone by the wayside. People are driven by convenience and efficiency, and its so much easier to pull up to the Starbucks drive-thru to pick up the morning java than to stop at a favorite coffee house and drink inside out of a ceramic cup. The original intent and philosophy behind the coffee house has waned, and in some areas, disappeared. In fact, after Starbucks switched to the fully automated machines, the pungent coffee aroma that used to permeate the air almost completely disappeared as well. Likewise, the craft of “pulling” a great cup of coffee or espresso is non-existent.

Here in San Antonio, I can only think of one coffee house that has retained this eclectic charm and that also serves good coffee. I only know about it because I stumbled upon it. On the other hand, Starbucks has become so ubiquitous through their marketing that even cartoons mimic and parody their logo.

However, hope may be in sight. Schultz is taking steps to bring the soul back to the stores. Different ideas have been tossed around to accomplish this, (like firing the CEO) but their success remains to be seen. I will be waiting in anticipation as I sip an espresso made from my Jura Capresso at home.

3 steps for complaining at a restaurant (part 2 of 2)

9 12 2007

As I pointed out in my previous “complaining” post, I have found that restaurants want to know if you are dissatisfied and will normally bend over backwards to ensure your problem is fixed and guarantee your return. But how do you complain? For many people initiating conflict is uncomfortable. It is much easier just to keep quiet and leave. However, there are three (3) easy steps you can take to make this action non-confrontational and benefit both you and the establishment. I strongly believe there is a definite etiquette involved when complaining, so pay attention. Read the rest of this entry »

Should you complain at a restaurant? (part 1 of 2)

6 12 2007

My wife and I rarely go on dates. When we do, our favorite thing to do is eat. It doesn’t have to be an expensive place, we just like good food. One evening we visited a fairly new restaurant founded by two well-known restauranteurs in San Antonio, so we expected the experience to be great. I ordered a typical Mexican pork dish that I am very familiar with, and my wife tried an enchilada plate with a sweet potato sauce. The enchiladas were fantastic. My dish, however, didn’t taste good at all. But it was edible, you know? I ate it all, no big deal. However, while taking our plates, the waiter asked “How was everything?”

What do I do? Nothing, and try to forget the whole experience and never return again? Should I spout off a lengthy diatribe about how they have ruined my date and wasted my money and blah, blah, blah? Or should I honestly let him know what I think?

Problems at restaurants are not isolated to dissatisfaction with food, however. We have all experienced bad service, Read the rest of this entry »